SAN FRANCISCO — Three of the last four presidents of the Teamsters, the largest labor union in the United States, have been convicted of federal corruption charges.

Current president Jackie Presser is now under investigation for kickbacks from five employees. One ghost employee has admitted receiving more than $100,000 for work that was never done.

Former President Roy Williams was recently found guilty of attempting to bribe Nevada Sen. Howard Cannon to vote against trucking deregulation.

Former President Jimmy Hoffa, who was declared legally dead last December, was convicted of pension fund fraud and jury tampering.

What other organization could exist with such scandal? Government documents report that at least 400 locals and tour national unions, including the Teamsters, are controlled by organized crime.

In the past three years, 49 Teamsters officials have been convicted of violating federal labor racketeering statutes.

Unions are not inherently bad, but the unusual legal status union leadership has received from government has encouraged corruption and fraud. As a result of federal laws, voluntary unions of workers have been replaced by organizations like the Teamsters.

Consumers are gouged for the costs of the resulting monopoly wages, and other workers (particularly unskilled minorities) are kept unemployed.

Even workers who do not approve of union practices are compelled by collective bargaining laws to join and support unions to keep their jobs.

Despite declining membership in unions nationally, groups like the Teamsters have prospered in areas where workers are compelled to join.

As a monopoly with compulsory membership, courtesy of the U.S. government, union leadership is virtually licensed to abuse their members. So long as a worker cannot withhold union dues, no pressure can be applied to insure leaders respond to problems.

Is it any wonder that Presser’s official salary is $548,000 per year, and that Williams annual expenses, not including salary, were more than$500,000?

This tragic situation leads to higher prices, shoddy work, and an America that can’t compete in the world economy.

Corruption has become routine to many American workers. It can and should be ended once and for all by deregulating labor markets and abolishing the government sanctions that protect labor monopolies like the Teamsters.